Saturday, 22 September 2012

Flying Lotus - Until The Quiet Comes


Mmmhmm; a double-meaning if there ever was one. Equally that part-satisfied part-intrigued stimulation you get when completely taken aback by something, as much as it is/was the lead track to hip-trip-hopper Flying Lotus' previous pre-futurist, post-ambitious success story of 2010, 'Cosmogramma'. The glory of that record was in its stripped-back almost back-to-basics sense of experimentation and lust for emotion through the use of the old-fashioned sampled vocal and the occasional blip of synthesized drums. So it's no surprise that Lotus' follow-up 'Until The Quiet Comes' continues that same sequential flow of jazz nostalgia and hip-hop enthusiasm - the sweetness of the shorter equally flowing with the passion of the lengthier.

'All In' is the first of Lotus' less quick-to-express, shorter tracks. Encompassing the open-ended jazz of previous - strings fluttering and twirling in silk-like streams against a steady pound of percussion - the track is as much expression as it is enveloping of its after-dusk pastel shades and melting waves of sound. And the sound becomes almost immediately intimate in its affection and its admittance for the outside scenery in 'Getting There'. Bleeping drum beats and glitchy organizing of instruments leave Niki Randa's vocals floating almost anonymously amid the emphatic thunder of drums and the fog of continuing strings and looping samples. The continuation of these sounds certainly makes for impressive backing and while it does hold the same level of passion and affection for the listener as in previous Lotus listens, there's already a slight hesitance in just how daring the album as a whole may be willing to go. Sure the floral-like bloom of instruments adds some gorgeous tone to Lotus' palette, but one does ask at this point if the shades are going to be kept the same.

'Tiny Tortures' then sees the album creep and crawl its way into more jungle-orientated rhythms and amazonian densities in its drum usage and the track's more-denser more-muddier groove of bass and guitar work. And while a track like this comes across as less extravagant and...dare I say it...beautiful musically, it does merit a sign that Lotus is going beyond the streets and the suburbs of jazz or hip-hop or any other abstract metropolis his soundscapes may dare to conjure. But what I also like about this track is that it knows where to limit itself without risking being branded as pure laziness - the sampling nature actually emphasizes its uncertain nature as much as it glorifies the certainty of its outright catchy and repeated appeal. This leads me then to 'All The Secrets', a compact two minute rummage of micro-house production but on a much more humble and warming plane. It's this quickening execution of beats against the off-set of out-of-perspective loop of keys that actually creates quite a compelling push-pull atmosphere about the track.

But even when FlyLo isn't aiming to strike us where we feel it or the music isn't one of a warming and comforting texture, his sounds do still create a sort of other-Worldly quirkiness in their experimental venture. 'Putty Boy Strut' starts out more as the brisk inside-out loner to 'All The Secrets' comforting right-way clash. And despite how secluded the single hand-claps and shifting swerving of vocals come across, the track still manages to keep that humbleness about the way it slowly opens up much like the tracks before it. But even for this three-minute limit - despite being something quite unveiling - the amount of development and evolution of its sound is somewhat sacrificed because of its length. I don't want to come across as someone who raises much of a fuss over track length - primarily because it's something that really shouldn't be the one to dictate a song's natural way of progression, but also because it's what Lotus has done, and done so well at, for the majority of his career thus far - but given this is a record that will automatically be judged on its predecessor, the assumption prior to hearing this would be that this album could expand on Cosmogramma's cosmic-scale awareness and use it in much more immense and provoking levels of variance.

'Electric Candyman' which features Thom Yorke less on vocals and more providing a voice for Lotus to swirl into his formula of jazzy grooves and hip-hop sequencing, is the type of track that does just as well on its compelling atmosphere as much as it falters on convincingly reaching out into less jaggedly protruded grounds. It almost feels totally unclear just what sort of territory we are approaching when a track like this reaches its climax - whether this sort of end-point is above or below the shudders and ground-up percussion, remains undefined. 'Hunger' though shares the previous track's trickled melting of layers, instead has a lot more of a hauntingly withdrawn feel to it. Niki Randa's vocals don't feel necessarily mixed in for the sake of just being there and it having vocals; it feels instead rather more natural and furthers that sense of nerviness and haunting interludes to the opening and closing of strings and bass that creep amidst the track's make-up.

For anyone who has gone through this guy's discography in reverse, like me admittedly, the sounds you'll hear from 'Until The Quiet Comes' may come as a surprise and something of inferior value to what you may have expected or wanted from the follower to Flying Lotus' 2010 release. While I wouldn't necessarily think  Cosmogramma 2.0 would be a good thing, there's still the point that what made that album such a well-crafted finely-balanced album may be slightly a miss here. Not that this isn't a great listen, it's just the solidarity and sequence of each of this album's components feels all too dependent on the parts before it...and in some cases, after as well. There are of course those major highlights - Lotus certainly demonstrating how well he crafts his music with each passionate molding of a layer on top of the next - from equally the shorter tracks as much as there are from what may be deemed the 'regular' length tracks. Overall, though the futurist glisten may be toned down for something a lot more earthly - and as a result, more darted and aiming to be singular rather than collective - the passion and the ideas remain as strong as they were from previous.
~Jordan

7.5

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